Achuthanandan’s moment of ultimate defeat

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on May 6, 2009





Wednesday,
May 6, 2009 could be described the ultimate day of defeat in the
70-odd-year political life of 86-year-old Velikkakath Sankaran
Achuthanandan, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Kerala Chief Minister.

The
political defeat of the senior communist was all the more humiliating
as he himself had to chair — as Chief Minister — the meeting of the LDF
Cabinet which approved the Advocate General’s advice not to permit the
CBI to prosecute CPI(M) secretary and his arch rival Pinarayi Vijayan
in the case of the multi-crore SNC Lavalin corruption scandal despite
his own conviction about Pinarayi’s involvement.

Achuthanandan
had till a month ago tried to project a bold face — though everyone
knew he was destined to be defeated ultimately — even a month ago by
expressing confidence that the party and the LDF would somehow have to
accept his stand. When a journalist asked him at a Press conference
about the progress in the case, he answered, “Do not hurry. It is being
handled by the court. Court cases would not proceed as you and I wish,”
he said with a smile, indicating things would finally be shaping up as
per his wishes..

In February, when the CBI submitted its probe
report in the Kerala High Court listing Pinarayi as ninth accused in
the case, charging him with betrayal and criminal conspiracy,
Achuthanandan had shocked the Polit Bureau by declaring in the open
that he would act as per the Constitution in the matter despite his
position in the party. Those who believed him then should be repenting
now.

Achuthanandan had participated full time in the CPI(M)
State secretariat meeting on Sunday, whose only agenda was to instruct
the Cabinet to approve the legal advice of the Advocate General
exonerating Pinarayi, but could not raise any objection at all to that
in front of the awesome majority the Pinarayi faction commanded in the
secretariat. The presence of general secretary Prakash Karat at the
meeting made his position weaker.

Achuthanandan did succumb to
the strategies designed by the neo-liberalists to protect Pinarayi at
Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting – but not without registering his
disagreement with the move to advise the State Governor to deny the CBI
permission to prosecute him. The Chief Minister had known, even before
the start of the meeting, that he had no option but to concede defeat.

It
was Pinarayi-camper Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (of late, there were reports
that he was leading his own group), Home Minister, who presented the
subject in the Cabinet, saying the Governor should be asked not to
permit Pinarayi’s prosecution. Kodiyeri said the date to make the
Government’s decision known to the court on the matter was May 11 and
the best option was to approve the AG’s advice.

Then
Achuthanandan made it clear that he had a different opinion on the
matter. He knew he had no opportunity to speak of the merit of the CBI
case, his own convictions about Pinarayi’s involvement in the scandal
and such old things. So he stuck to the technicality, knowing fully
well that his statement was not going to make any difference.

He
said he differed with Kodiyeri’s suggestion for three reasons. The
first was that the Advocate General himself had said that he had
formulated the advice to the Cabinet without examining the entire
documents related with the case and so there was room for political
controversy.

The second reason he cited was that the AG’s report
had leaked into the media (as well as into political parties) the same
day as it was delivered to his principal secretary Shiela Thomas and
this was a serious matter. (Later, talking to the Press, he made it
clear that the AG’s advice was not leaked from his office as the AG had
alleged but from his own end).

As a third point, Achuthanandan
said that it would be better if the Cabinet asked the Advocate General
to study all the documents and formulate an advice taking his own
reasonable time, which could be bought from the High Court through a
plea, a matter the court had agreed to earlier.

But Finance
Minister TM Thomas Isaac, theorist of the neo-liberalist faction shot
these proposals down with the argument that at stake was the image and
existence of the party and the LDF Government respectively. CPI’s Food
Minister C Divakaran also disagreed with the Chief Minister – “with all
due respects” – and supported the move to exonerate Pinarayi.

Achuthanandan
then put forward to his question as to what should be the Cabinet
meeting’s minutes to be presented to the Governor. Kodiyeri said the
Cabinet could write down that it had approved the AG’s advice that the
Governor should not allow the CBI to prosecute Pinarayi. And the
Cabinet decision was “unanimous”.

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